09 December 2012

Annotated Game #74: Round 3 - Round Turkey Tournament

This final round of the 2012 Round Turkey Tournament was the decisive one, as any of the players could theoretically have won it.  I had no idea how Tim Clark (aka Moth) was going to open the game, although I did prep the Caro-Kann Advance variation to some extent, since it is a popular choice for White these days.

Black has a relatively easy time of it in the opening and by move 9 has his pieces comfortably placed.  I decided not to get too fancy in the early middlegame and was thinking about quietly increasing the pressure on the d-pawn when White threw in the tactical surprise of 15. Nxd5.  Black is objectively fine here, but the failure by both of us (apparently) to spot the key ...Nxe5 countermove - made possible by the unprotected White queen on d3 - is quite instructive.  I had the mental assumption when both queens were on the d-file that opening the file would not do anything, only seeing the ...Nxe5 possibility once I had a rook on d8.  This is a good example of how doing a general tactical status check can be a help (and should be a regular feature of one's thinking process).  (I first saw this idea expressed in Understanding Chess Tactics by Martin Weteschnik.)

Despite missing the best reply, I manage to hang on and after the sequence is completed, regain equality.  White nevertheless retained what initiative was left in the position and I soon felt under pressure again after he pushed in the center with 24. d5.  Further inaccurate defending by Black leaves him with a somewhat scary-looking position as of move 29, although it was still objectively OK.  Attempting to counterattack in the center, I play Rxe3, which would have lost had White taken the fleeting opportunity to play d6 that was presented by Black's overloaded pieces.  Luckily for me, I immediately extricated myself and then was able to head for a setup that would force perpetual check.

My opponent didn't want to accept a draw, though, so decided to roll the dice with a rook exchange that lost him two pawns, leaving us with a R+P endgame featuring three Black kingside pawns versus two White kingside pawns.  With time growing shorter, White got very aggressive and failed to do a CCT (checks, captures and threats) check on move 41, allowing White's rook to check and then pick up the b-pawn.  The end came quickly afterwards.

My thanks to Tim for playing an interesting and strong game, which gave me a lot to look at during analysis.

For anyone else who wants to join the fun during the next cycle, the 2012 Double My Egg Nog FICS tournament still has a space available.

[Event "rated standard match"] [Site "Free Internet Chess Server"] [Date "2012.11.24"] [Round "?"] [White "Timmmmm"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "1723"] [BlackElo "1547"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [TimeControl "3600+5"] {B12: Caro-Kann: Advance Variation} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 {the Advance Variation is now the de facto main line, in terms of frequency of play at the professional level.} c5 {Black is willing to sacrifice this pawn for improved piece play. White decides not to accept.} 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 {NOT ...e6 before letting the bishop out.} 6. Be2 e6 7. Be3 Nge7 {Qb6 is the major alternative in the database. I instead opt to get the kingside developed.} 8. h3 {leading to a trade of minor pieces, as retreating the bishop would cramp Black and invite the g4 thrust.} Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Nf5 {here I consider Black's position as very comfortable, with superior activity for his minor pieces.} 10. O-O {around here is when I start thinking about playing ...Qb6, but never do.} cxd4 {an amateur move, relieving pressure on d4 just to make things less complicated.} (10... Qb6 {is Houdini's choice, protecting c5 again and pressuring b2. At the time, I didn't like the fact that taking multiple times on d4 would just end up with a Black knight pinned to the queen by the Be3, but there were other good reasons for the queen development, to ratchet up the pressure on White.}) 11. cxd4 Bb4 {this seemed to me to have better long-term prospects than development to e7, and gives the bishop the retreat to b6 (to target d4) as an option.} 12. Nc3 O-O 13. Qd3 $146 {Whtie is now out of the database (with Houdini's preferred move). This connects the rooks and usefully centralizes the queen on the b1-h7 diagonal.} Rc8 {Black completes his initial development.} 14. Rac1 Ba5 {after thinking for a fair amount of time on my initial middlegame plan, I had settled on pressuring d4 some more, with ...Bb6 to follow.} 15. Nxd5 {this came as a tactical surprise, using the theme of the overloaded pawn at e6, which was protecting both f5 and d5.} (15. Bg4 {is Houdini's preferred alternative.} Nxe3 16. fxe3 Qg5 $11) 15... Nh4 {Black has a cramped position, comments Houdini. This move is certainly a little awkward.} (15... exd5 $2 16. Qxf5) (15... Nxe3 {would have been the easier route.} 16. Nxe3 Nxe5 {; however, I didn't spot the possibility of capturing the e5 pawn while exploiting the pin on the d-file until later.}) 16. Nc3 (16. Nf4 { was necessary to protect the hanging Qd3 and therefore prevent the threatened Nxe5; however, neither my opponent nor myself spotted the capture at this point, due to a failure to recognize the status of the queen.}) 16... Nxf3+ { this line still gives Black an advantage, even if not optimal.} (16... Nxe5 17. Qe4 Nexf3+ 18. gxf3 $17 {and White's position is full of holes.}) 17. gxf3 $15 Qh4 $6 {I had fixated on the idea of penetrating with the queen here, although I knew White could easily defend in the short term.} (17... Nxe5) 18. Kh2 $11 Rcd8 {Interestingly, it was only when considering this move, where the rook takes the queen's place on d8, that I spot the Nxe5 threat. The move increases pressure on the backward pawn d4 and re-establishes the pin.} 19. Ne2 {this reduces the effectiveness of the knight and still allows Black to regain the pawn.} (19. Qe4 {immediately would probably be the best way for White to resolve his issues via simplification.} Qxe4 20. Nxe4 Bb6 $11 {and now that Black's queen is no longer on the board, he can't take advantage of White's kingside weaknesses, although he will have easy equality after regaining the d4 pawn.}) 19... Nxe5 20. Qe4 Qxe4 21. fxe4 {I thought for some time here about the various knight jumps, but eventually settled on retreating to c6, not seeing what I would get concretely out of ... Nd3.} Nc6 (21... Nd3 22. Rb1 $11 {is still Houdini's preferred line. The point is that the Nd3 can't be directly challenged by White without creating other problems in his position.}) 22. Rg1 {a rather transparent threat to play Bh6 as a follow-up.} g6 {the most obvious way to defend.} (22... Rfe8 {is a better defense, removing the rook from the line of fire. This would have effectively saved a tempo for Black - g6 does nothing for him - as well as better anticipating White's coming d5 push.}) 23. Rgd1 Bb6 24. d5 Bxe3 25. fxe3 Ne5 {I had to think about this one for a while as well, although there was less of a choice available than with the previous knight move. Houdini approves.} 26. Rc7 {the critical (and obvious) try for White.} Rc8 27. Rdc1 {with time getting shorter, my thinking process started breaking down around here, as I didn't even consider this possibility for White.} (27. Rxb7 {fails due to} Rc2 {which will win the Ne2 because of the pin on the Kh2.}) 27... Rcd8 {the riskier play, as at the time I didn't like the alternative.} (27... Rxc7 {is fine, however as} 28. Rxc7 exd5 29. exd5 Rd8 30. e4 Rd7 {and Black is equal, being able to stop the pawns with his piece blockade.}) 28. Nf4 exd5 29. exd5 {Black is still OK, although that pawn on d5 sure looks good for White.} Rfe8 {continuing the aggressive and risky play} (29... b5 {is Houdini's inspired choice, creating an outpost for Black on c4 that allows him to compensate for White's rampaging rook on the 7th rank.} 30. Rxa7 Nc4) 30. Rxb7 $14 Nf3+ 31. Kg2 {White threatens to win material: Kg2xf3} Rxe3 $2 {this is shown by Houdini to lose for Black, although it's not obvious at this point why it should.} (31... Nh4+ 32. Kf2 Nf5 $14) 32. Kf2 $18 {one should not forget that the king can also fork (double attack) different pieces!} Rde8 33. Rcc7 (33. d6 $1 {instead would win for White. Now the Re8 is overloaded and Black's pieces cannot protect each other and at the same time stop the advancing d-pawn.}) 33... Ng5 $11 {now Black's pieces are no longer overloaded and the position is equal.} 34. h4 Rf3+ { I thought for some time here and concluded that Black should get a perpetual check out of this sequence.} 35. Kg2 Rxf4 36. hxg5 Rf5 {now the king would not be close enough to the rook to be able to fend off the checks by counterattacking.} 37. Re7 $2 {White desperately wants to win, so plays riskily to prevent the perpetual.} (37. d6 {would lead to the perpetual check scenario, as Black would have no alternative that could prevent the pawn from queening.} Rxg5+) 37... Rxe7 38. Rxe7 Rxg5+ 39. Kf3 Rxd5 40. Rxa7 {This was the position we both had seen on move 37, although I'd evaluate it as at least a sure draw for Black, with winning chances. If White's pawns were further advanced, perhaps it would be another story.} h5 41. a4 {White was getting a bit short on time here and evidently didn't do a CCT check.} (41. Ke3 $17) 41... Rd3+ $19 {the b-pawn is now doomed.} 42. Ke2 Rb3 43. a5 {attempting to run for glory. With the rook in front of it rather than behind it, though, the pawn can never reach the 8th rank alive.} Rxb2+ 44. Kf3 Ra2 {Black now has a completely won endgame.} 45. Kf4 Kg7 46. Kg5 {White's last-gasp attempt to stop the Black pawns.} Ra4 {The rook closes off the king's escape and looms ready for the mate. Timmmmm resigns} (46... Ra4 47. Rxf7+ Kxf7 48. Kh6 Rxa5 49. Kh7 h4 50. Kh6 Rh5#) 0-1

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